Ahmed al-Dabba
November 30, 2010 - 1:00am

GAZA, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Gaza flower grower Hamdan Hejazi could not hide his happiness as his roses now can be exported to Europe despite an Israeli ban on export.

Hejazi, who inherited the business from his ancestors, hopes to export more than 7 million roses to Holland if the borders remain open.

Looking at the trucks carrying his flowers, he sighed with relief, hoping this season would compensate the losses he suffered during the past years of the Israeli blockade that started in 2006.

Israel on Sunday allowed the exports of flowers and strawberries, letting two trucks loaded with 20,000 roses and 5 tons of strawberries to leave Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing in southeast the strip to be sold in the European markets.

The decision came after numerous discussions between Palestinian organizations representing the farmers as well as pressures on Israel from the Dutch government, which buys most of the products.

"This is the second time we can send our flowers to Europe since the siege started," said Hejazi, who owns the largest greenhouse in Rafah town in southern Gaza Strip.

Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after Islamic Hamas movement won legislative elections in 2006. Israel further tightened the blockade following Hamas takeover of the seaside territory by force in 2007.

Ahmed Shafey, head of the Cooperative Agricultural Organization, an umbrella group representing flower and strawberry growers in Gaza, said flower growers grow around 550,000 square meters of different kinds of roses every season.

The Dutch government funds most of the flower and strawberry farms and greenhouses with seeds, fertilizers and pays for the workers.

"But they had to trim it down to 300,000 square meters for fear that Israel may not open the borders for exports," said Shafey, adding that flower growing provides at least 3,000 Palestinians with jobs during the season, which starts in November and ends in May.

As for the flowers, the revenue is expected to be around 6 million U.S. dollars, as at least 30 million roses and 700 tons of strawberry would be shipped, said Shafey.

"I hope the crossings will remain open to export our roses, otherwise they will be animals' food like the past years," says Hejazi.

Hejazi is very happy because his roses will decorate the Christmas tree and be given as gifts on Valentine's Day in Europe.

"My flowers will be means to spread peace in the world, this is a message to the whole world that peace and love start from Gaza," said Hejazi as he watched female workers packing flowers for exports.


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